The legacy of Jack Ferguson lives on in the Salisbury men’s basketball program.
A memorial was recently added to the team’s locker room honoring the memory of Ferguson and his time in the maroon and gold.
Ferguson was diagnosed with Histiocytic Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in the summer before the 2018-19 season. He passed away on March 11.
Strength and conditioning coach Matt Nein worked closely with Ferguson in his time on the team and constructed the memorial.
Nein said Ferguson will be remembered for his character and his leadership in his time as a Sea Gull.
“He was just such a great all-around guy,” Nein said. “He was an exceptional leader, and I think everybody saw that and knew that.”
Nein has experience building jersey cases and shadow boxes, primarily for the women’s basketball team. Head coach Maurice Williams approached him originally about the idea and allowed him to run with it.
Before he began working, Nein got in touch with Ferguson’s former roommate and former Sea Gull Chase Kumor, who graduated from Salisbury last spring.
Together, the two decided that they wanted the memorial to resemble a locker. They wanted it to seem like if Ferguson was still there, he would walk in and put his jersey on with the rest of the team.
This led to the addition of Ferguson’s jersey and a game-worn shoe to the case. They also eventually added lights on the inside, controlled a remote and put the motto "You're Never Out of the Fight."
Nein said the first step was deciding that they wanted to use the wood from the old bleachers in Maggs Physical Activities Center to build the frame of the box.
Those old bleachers were the last spot fans watched Ferguson take the court.
“Every game that he played, this is where people sat to watch him play,” Nein said. “It was pretty cool to be able to incorporate that in.”
The players on the team did not know about the case. Williams and Nein brought the team into the locker room to unveil it on Nov. 16.
The players were brought into the dark locker room, and many walked past the wall near the entrance. After talking briefly about Ferguson and what he meant to the program, Williams turned on the lights inside the case.
The team also put the video of this unveiling on Instagram.
Nein said the emotional reaction in the locker room went far beyond what was caught on video.
“The place erupted, and they were really, really ecstatic to see that, but then the lights come on and the video ends,” Nein said. “It’s what happened after that, and the emotions from the individuals who played with him … because they understand that Jack is here, he is part of this program, and he always will be a part of this program.”
Junior guard Johnny Fierstein played alongside Ferguson in his freshman season.
Fierstein said last season was difficult not only for Ferguson, but for those on the team who were used to seeing him in the locker room and on the court every day.
“It definitely was a lot to go through, someone you’re so used to seeing and being around, and he’s gone,” Fierstein said. “It put everything in perspective, because he would have given anything to be out there with us.”
Having to face this along with the coaching controversy around the team last season was a lot for the program to handle.
Nein said there was one saying, though, that helped the men’s basketball team stay successful and together during these difficult times.
“We had been talking about a concept called E + R = O, so it’s Event + Response = Outcome,” Nein said. “That was one of the big things, that they had this event where he’s diagnosed with cancer that could be terminal."
“Because of who he was as a person, their response was deeper than the game, it was deeper than wins and losses," Nein added.
Fierstein said the players were told they could not be in the locker room until after 6:30 p.m. that day.
The players had no idea what to expect. Fierstein said he thought it could have been t-shirts or maybe even a new TV, but the memorial had a much deeper impact.
“It was unbelievable,” Fierstein said. “For everyone who knew Jack, and even the guys who didn’t, it was just a really special moment.”
Fierstein said Ferguson left his mark on everyone he played with. Even in the difficult times, they knew he was there for them and rooting for them to succeed.
When it comes to the values of the program, Fierstein said no Sea Gull has brought more pride to the maroon and gold.
“He represented the program better than anyone ever,” Fierstein said. “He wanted the best for everyone and the best for the team, and he wanted you to have the best experience possible.”
Building the memorial took a lot of planning and hard work on Nein’s part, but he said he enjoyed every moment of organizing it.
Nein said he focused on every detail and making it the best it could possibly be because it’s what Ferguson would have done.
“We wanted it to look great, because that’s what Jack would want,” Nein said. “That’s how he carried himself in everything he did.”
By NICK LEWIS
Featured photo: Emma Reider image.